Sunday, April 4, 2010

Christmas Tale: Lion in Winter

Lion in Winter (1968) - Harvey
Menacing King Henry II sermons the estranged queen Elenore(Katherine Hepburn) for Christmas. They once loved each other but now all that remain are bitterness and scheming against one another with their three loveless, in-line-for-the-throne sons - the warrior and mom's favorite Richard (Anthony Hopkins), calculating middle one Geoffrey (John Castle) and pimply idiot and dad's favorite John (Excalibur's Nigel Terry). It is a great feat to see O'Toole and Hepburn shouting on top of their lungs as if they were in some Adam Sandler movie. But their verbal acrobatics are quite enjoyable. Throw in very young Timothy Dalton(with batting eyelashes) as King Philip of France, you got intriguing power play for 2 hrs. Hepburn's Elenore, the shriveled up old queen who uses her sexual history as a weapon to get at the king is real fun to watch. So as O'Toole's grizzly Henry who wants to do away with three ungrateful sons and marry his young mistress who'd bear his child.

Granddaddy of all home for the holidays movies where blood is thicker than hate, hurt and tears, I must admit I enjoyed this rather stage-y presentation of a Battle Royal quite a bit.

Pushing Buttons: The Box

The Box (2009) - Kelly
The box is a simple morality play, set in the 70s, Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) style. Combining conspiracy theory, pseudo science and extended bits from Twin Peaks and X-Files with big religious undertones, Kelly concocts, once again, hugely ambitious and cyclical film that is far more interesting and absorbing than average Hollywood fare.

A stranger with a disfigured face (Frank Langella) drops off the box at the doorstep of Arthur, a NASA scientist (James Marsden) and Norma, a school teacher (Cameron Diaz with an atrocious Southern accent). The box contains a clear plastic covered red button. The stranger explains that if they push the button, someone they don't know will die and they will receive one million dollars. The couple struggles with the idea for few days...

By no means the Box is a fully successful film. Kelly's overly labored plot feels like a house of cards ready to come crashing down at any given moment. Spirituality here is treated like a condiment. And there are way too much explanations for it to be enigmatic and mysterious. Oh, Cameron Diaz should realize that she looks very freaky when she is not smiling.